Friday, April 15, 2011

Blue Jays Weigh Brett Lawrie's Readiness for Majors

If former Toronto Blue Jays manager Buck Martinez had anything to say about it --  top organizational minor league prospect Brett Lawrie would be in the majors already.

"If it were up to me,  I'd take him north,"  Martinez told his former colleagues at Sirrius-XM Radio after watching Lawrie closely at the conclusion of spring training.

Now working as a Blue Jays television announcer,  Martinez, however,  must leave the decision entirely to a committee of others,  none less important than Marty Brown,  Lawrie's manager with the Triple A Las Vegas 51s.  Brown sees things differently.

Hitting at a .441 clip in the early going,  Lawrie is doing all that can be expected of him in the Pacific Coast League, at least at the plate. But he has four errors,  and neither Brown nor anyone else seems willing to rush him into the field before he's ready.

"He's pretty special," Brown recently told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "(His bat) is what's going to take him wherever he needs to go.  But we have to make sure, when he gets his opportunity to go, he's prepared to play third base."

Some observers have speculated it may take at least two months before he can be considered capable of playing the hot corner without embarrassing himself.  Others,  such as Blue Jays announcer Alan Ashby,  a former Toronto catcher, think he is ready today despite what might be considered anomalous errors.

A Canadian native,  Lawrie, 21, was traded from Milwaukee to Toronto on Dec. 6 for pitcher Shaun Marcum. He is a former No. 16 overall pick, and has seen time at second base and the outfield during his brief career,  reps which might better have been spent learning third base,  seeing as the Blue Jays are determined to convert him.  Coaches are working on Lawrie's footwork and throwing.

Favoring Lawrie for a quicker callup is the fact that so far this season, it appears that he can't do much worse than anyone else Toronto has at third, especially struggling third base starter Edwin Encarnacion.   Need, it should be remembered, is the tie that binds.